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Thread: "We build cheap in NZ"

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heynekamp View Post
    Oh, one other thing! Outlets! I know we discussed more of them with the sparkie BUT we should have taken the electric plan and explicitly drawn on them where we wanted extra outlets! For whatever reason every house we've stayed at, rented, etc. hasn't had enough outlets conveniently for laptops, phones, etc. Easy to add more during construction BUT we missed the boat!
    I never would have thought of that, good point!

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heynekamp View Post
    Oh, one other thing! Outlets! I know we discussed more of them with the sparkie BUT we should have taken the electric plan and explicitly drawn on them where we wanted extra outlets! For whatever reason every house we've stayed at, rented, etc. hasn't had enough outlets conveniently for laptops, phones, etc. Easy to add more during construction BUT we missed the boat!
    Ha! We ran into the very same issue in all of the houses we lived in in NZ, even a brand new one. I think it's a North American thing. Every place we've traveled in the world seems to be "outlet challenged" with the exception of Canada. We yanks appear to have way too many gadgets that need to be plugged in, charged or whatever, at least by comparison I guess. Power strips seem to be the norm in most places, so maybe it's just a matter of designers playing catch-up.

    Having an on/off switch on an outlet is unusual for yanks as well. Although we rarely turned them off, it is a good way to eliminate the "vampire draw" of some electronics.

    FWIW we had a sparky add a few outlets to one NZ home we owned. He didn't seem to think it was odd and did a good job for a very reasonable price. Luckily he was able to run the new wiring inside the crawl space and attic areas so no walls were harmed in the process.

  3. #13
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    From the Stuff article:

    "We have got houses that were built in the 1980s through the 2000s which are vulnerable to failure because of weather tightness issues and because they didn't have cavities behind them," O'Sullivan said.
    There are some misleading points in the article and it's pretty much universal worldwide that residential building goes along the lines of minimum code no matter where you live. IMO, the durability of a modern home is well over 50 years and the fact is, in NZ the #1 exterior cladding used is brick and that lasts for centuries. Weather tightness failures were a product of using overseas methods and materials that were not adaptable to the NZ environment. Quite specifically, it's a problem of different housing systems, and NOTHING to do if the exterior walls had a cavity or not. Take for the example of SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) that have no cavity, do they leak and go moldy? Definitely not. The author neglects the fact that overseas, houses are centrally heated and their building systems go towards an air tight construction. Most common central heating system in N. America use forced air heating while addressing indoor humidity levels. When you compare to how modern NZ houses are built, there is no comparison because they're simply different in design. Of the 20 years i've been living in NZ, I've not walked into a house that uses forced air HVAC systems (but they are the norm for commercial builds in NZ). You can have all the double glazed or triple glazed windows, thicker walls for more insulation, etc. in a new house, and still have indoor mold and condensation (typically in the bathroom wet areas), because NZ houses are passively ventilated. a key feature that critics in NZ tend to never mention. They think mold on the windows is a product of poor insulation and draft proofing. But yet, you compare to the early NZ state house built 60 years ago, their windows had less condensation because the building envelope was very drafty to begin with (in fact it was standard practice for the bottom plates to have 2" holes drill all around so air from the crawl space can rid any moisture within the walls). Another words, when you build your house air tight and stop all the drafts, you've introduce another problem (well exacerbated the issue of condensation). So NZ builders do have a point that when you put in $20K on a $700K budget home, you're not getting much benefit. That is, having more insulation, draft proofing the house, etc isn't really beneficial without having proper indoor ventilation (or means to control condensation). But in NZ, prices I've seen for balanced HRV / HVAC systems are well in the excess of $20K installed. Then to ask the home owner to have their new house upscaled for double glazing, thicker walls for more insulation, etc. and you'll find it's insanely cost prohibitive to realize the FULL benefit of going well over minimum building code.

    Overall, I don't believe new NZ houses built today are that bad (and I'm speaking from an environmental / green point of view). You've got to be a very bad architect not to orientate NZ houses to allow more passive heating from the sun and the NZ RMA (Resource Management Act) puts great restrictions on building heights, how close to the neighbouring boundary, privacy, etc) to ensure every house built in a new sub-division lot can obtain enough passive heating from the sun. In comparison to overseas like in Canada, well their building approach and systems differ greatly (and so should the use of those materials in NZ climates), solar passive heating is a lessor priority when you have central heating (ie by way of natural gas or electric). However, your typical Canadian home will have a carbon footprint that is at least 3 times larger than the NZ home. That alone by that comparison means new NZ houses are doing pretty good. Sure they may not have the comfort level to maintain a constant 22C throughout the whole house, but is it not going to kill you for living in a house that is only 18C or less. There's a growing trend in Canada to keep houses cooling just to save energy ; Eco critics there even wonder why the WHOLE HOUSE should be heated up to room temperature when it's not being used ??

    The real question isn't about if houses will last more than 50 years in NZ. I'm quite confident they do ; all the brick cladding in NZ homes tell me that bricks last a hell of a lot longer than wood or composite cladding (which require maintenance / repaint etc.) I'm confused where the author of that article was getting at about the cladding not lasting long enough. Anyways, the real question is "Should NZ homes be built to the same comfort standard as houses are in N. America and Europe? " With NZ's temperate weather climate, the data doesn't suggest we should and it would cost dearly. NZ does not have cheap nuclear power or cheap hydro ; in a few years time we'll be seeing 40c/kW/hr for electricity (compare that to the price of electricity in N. America?).

  4. #14
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    I'm a bit confused by your breakdown - so you're saying there are other reasons that NZ homes tend to be damp, mainly because central heating isn't common? And that some of the poorly constructed houses are that way because they tried to use materials that work better overseas?

    I find the whole "NZ has a temperate climate" argument (which I haven't heard in person but seems to be mentioned online a bit) kind of funny, because NZ has TONS of climates, many of which are not so temperate, at least not year round :-P It's like saying the West Coast of the US is temperate...sort of, but there's a big difference between San Diego and Seattle, or the coast and the central valleys. I sure wouldn't want to live with just a space heater in the Pacific Northwest!

    You are probably correct that energy prices are the pinch point, with all the other high costs of living, bringing up building standards including central heating is likely prohibitive for many.

    Building with passive solar in mind would certainly be smart, that's just like the house I grew up in (Northern California), although also well ventilated and scrupulously insulated. We never had central heat, just a woodburning stove for winter. The house we're renting in New Plymouth only has woodburning as well, it's supposed to be fully insulated, but single pane windows. It seems significantly colder, maybe because of the windows, and maybe it gets a little less sun. The climates are comparable, actually my hometown appears to get colder in winter (just looked up the averages).

  5. #15
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    I'm a bit confused by your breakdown - so you're saying there are other reasons that NZ homes tend to be damp, mainly because central heating isn't common? And that some of the poorly constructed houses are that way because they tried to use materials that work better overseas?
    The short answer: overall NZ houses are more damp because they're 'passively heated' design. When the room isn't warm enough to expel the moisture, then you get dampness and condensation.

    The long answer: In NZ houses are passively managedvs say in N. America, houses are actively managed. When you have a passively designed house, you are not addressing the issue of indoor moisture and condensation (and hence why the NZ building code doesn't link both heating and humidity as a performance standard). The code only specifies size of window openings and assumes the occupant will leave the windows open for certain periods of the day to control indoor moisture. When looking at an actively heated houses, hands down these houses with forced air ventilation and / or balanced pressured HRVs will extract humid air far faster than any open window will do, and the whole house would be far more comfortable to live in. But all at a major cost for installation and high electricity use. Hence the NZ home having a carbon footprint of 1/3rd of overseas McMansion houses. As I asked before, and how that Stuff.co.nz article does not say, should NZ be going down the path how overseas houses are built? Completely air tight with full HVAC systems ??

    If you're referring why houses have gone leaky in NZ, there was a period that overseas materials AND building methods were used without thorough testing in NZ. They never thought that if they wanted this particular kind of look of a house (one with no eaves or overhang soffits), that indoor moisture control would be an issue. Under the passive design house the walls must breath but when mixed with unusual claddings such as EXIF (externally insulated Styrofoam that had no cavity air gap in the walls), the moisture would get trapped in the walls and lead to rot. Likewise, the all important vapour barrier were not used in NZ (not allowed by code under a passively heated design) so what you had is indoor moisture that was passing through the walls into the wall cavity and bingo.. wood rot. Building systems are very complex.

    I find the whole "NZ has a temperate climate" argument (which I haven't heard in person but seems to be mentioned online a bit) kind of funny, because NZ has TONS of climates, many of which are not so temperate, at least not year round :-P It's like saying the West Coast of the US is temperate...sort of, but there's a big difference between San Diego and Seattle, or the coast and the central valleys. I sure wouldn't want to live with just a space heater in the Pacific Northwest!
    Not particularly. NZ does not experience extreme temperature shifts like they do in N. America. In the S. Island snow is never persistent, that is overnight it will drop below 0C freezing point but in the day time, the snow eventually melts. In the summer months in the S. Island, we don't often see 35C or 40C. If we talk about the N. Island, well the climate is even more temperate (mild). In the Northland region (north of Auckland) you will find you can build houses without insulation because the variance in temperature isn't that great. Sure there are places in N. America I suppose that may be similar to NZ's climate, but I will say on most part, N. American climate is far more extreme and most importantly, far less damp (that's due to differences in continental land mass). It's the extreme climate what brought on to 'active' heating and ventilation as the standard for N American homes. They had to change (yes if you look back 100s of years ago, they didn't build houses in America the same way NZ builds houses today - passively heated with a fireplace).

    I pity the NZ gov't now trying to fix the housing shortage issue and make affordable housing. IMO, most of the high cost is due to the high cost of land. In the North Shore Auckland section prices sell for around $750K (which leaves very little budget for a house). Either the local city council will take a cut on 'developmental contribution fees' (thus making current rate payers to subsidize this shortfall), or change the NZ RMA to allow for a more efficient use of the land; ie medium & high density building. I do not believe going pre-fab will reduce much cost. They've got the labour down to a little as possible in newly built houses.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Super_BQ View Post
    The short answer: overall NZ houses are more damp because they're 'passively heated' design. When the room isn't warm enough to expel the moisture, then you get dampness and condensation.

    [...]
    Building systems are very complex.
    Yes, far more complex than I'm qualified to comment on! I do think improving the windows would go a long way, though. Double glazing gets rid of some condensation, and keeps a lot of that costly heat inside. I did grow up in a passively heated home, and my parents made sure to air it out at certain times of day, but more for concerns of overheating on warm days than for moisture buildup. We kept it airtight when it was chilly. I don't know how many times I heard the refrain, "close the door, it's a solar house!!" Venting fans in the bathrooms really helps, too - here I've only seen a wall-mounted heater type thing, and I can't tell if it's also doing something about moisture.

    So you say the climate is actually damper here? I would have expected ocean winds over a relatively slender landmass to mitigate that, but maybe it's the opposite? Are you talking rainfall, humidity, or both?

    Also: you say they've got the labour down to as little as possible for new builds. Isn't that part of "building cheap?" Shouldn't there be more preventative care taken, not only in design and choosing materials, but also installing them seamlessly?

  7. #17
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    So you say the climate is actually damper here? I would have expected ocean winds over a relatively slender landmass to mitigate that, but maybe it's the opposite? Are you talking rainfall, humidity, or both?
    I would ask you compare average annual humidity levels around NZ and compare the humidity levels in large continental land masses like Australia or N. America (Google it).

    Also: you say they've got the labour down to as little as possible for new builds. Isn't that part of "building cheap?" Shouldn't there be more preventative care taken, not only in design and choosing materials, but also installing them seamlessly?
    Long ago houses use to be built from a lift of timber. Well there are still some builders that continue that practise of building 1 stick at a time. The real question is, does it matter? We're talking walls that at the end will be covered and lined and you wouldn't know the difference how flat the walls are. Pretty much all the new houses (not talking about boutique / special built houses) use pre-fab timber framing. Delivered on site and assembled - saves a lot of labour. So why not go all the way pre-fab (pre-insulated and pre-wired)? Well certain tasks still require labour. Is it faster for the electrician to wire pre-fab walls at the factory or do the wiring fit out on site as the house goes up? How many hours will be gained? I would not be surprised it's not much difference.

    Preventative care? Seamless installation? Sounds like that's dependant on the person on site and not really about building cheap. If you want a cheap house, you could live in one of those TotalSpan or Versatile garage houses. The surprising thing is that garage house would not have condensation nor would fall apart after 50 years. I would be quick to ask any person that has a detached Colorsteel like garage and see if their windows condensate in the cold winter months? (providing they're not living in it). You'll see the clear distinction that when you inhabit inside a house, moisture becomes a problem. When you look in the garage where no one lives in it, well, the single glazed windows don't condensate; I wonder why?..

  8. #18
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    The building standards for things here are still well behind Canadian standards. Haven't lived in the US for almost 3 decades so not sure about that. They are better than the 1970s, but they are still not great. Unless people do their own custom build and build to their standard above the minimum required. But relatively few people do that--most of us live in something that was either previously owned or built by a developer.

    There are a few issues here in Auckland:

    • Pseudo-tropics denial: we have tropical plants and humid warm summers and we have a lot of tropical islands in our part of the world. But we're not tropical in Auckland--besides, the building standards in cooler climates are also excellent for hot climates.
    • Hardy Kiwi argument: Kiwis are a hardy (sic?) bunch and a bit of cold and damp? She'll be riiight. Except we aren't. Look at our stats on childhood diseases largely eradicated in the northern hemisphere first world. Bizarre.
    • Investor coldheartedness: too many people expect their tenants to live in conditions them wouldn't subject their own family to. Vile.
    • Cheapness: The house we bought a couple of years featured a fabulous, newish indoor/outdoor flow from the lounge to the back deck. Was installed around 2010. They still went for single glazed. So we effectively have a thin, non-insulated wall in our lounge. Heat seaps out in winter; air con (the rare time we run it) seeps out in summer. Dumb.
    • Council silliness: if we wanted to remove the gip and add insulation to our walls, we would need a permit from council. If we want to swap out the windows in our bedrooms, which will require removing the gip, we need permits for both the gip and the window install. This disincentives people making incremental, positive improvements to property. Silly.


    Still happy living here. But Kiwis have a sort of stockholm syndrome when it comes to build quality.

  9. #19
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    "Our buildings are crap because the building code is"
    https://thespinoff.co.nz/business/26...lding-code-is/

  10. #20
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    Pseudo-tropics denial: we have tropical plants and humid warm summers and we have a lot of tropical islands in our part of the world. But we're not tropical in Auckland--besides, the building standards in cooler climates are also excellent for hot climates.
    "Our buildings are crap because the building code is"
    https://thespinoff.co.nz/business/26...lding-code-is/
    Again, I feel like i'm repeating and while my past post has been lengthy, the real issue has nothing to do with how crappy the NZ building code is. The reason is, "Is it warranted for NZ to transform from a passive building design approach to an ACTIVE building design approach that has become the standard in most OECD places???"

    I was born and raised in Canada for most of my life. Have many friends in the building industry there and it's very clear, NZ climate is nothing like Canada. The population of NZ does not experience -40C and +40C every year. When I was attending Uni in Canada, the common complaint I heard from overseas Asian students was the winters and summers were TOO DRY for their precious facial skin. Anyways, just saying the climate is different and has nothing to do with how much insulation houses have. It's ALL to do with the management of indoor ventilation and heating / cooling ; albeit actively or passively.

    IMO, I do not believe NZ is ready to pay the higher cost to go the active design approach. You have an HVAC system that would add an easy extra $50K, then you have to pay probably another $50K to air tight the house. Then you have the higher running cost of these systems. If you look on Google, the carbon foot print of going active ventilation is considerably higher than houses that rely on passive ventilation. NZ's climate quite simply is not that extreme to warrant it. What I see is the media and people are quick to criticize NZ's poor home comfort, but don't understand the impact of the NZ RMA. If we go on a path like they do overseas, then definitely the RMA would have to be changed. But people in NZ enjoy windows that face the sun, 'these passive design approaches' and it explains why streets are not grided in NZ. Because when you go passive design, EACH AND EVERY house can be positioned to face the sun to maximise solar gain. In an active design house, you don't have to care how the house faces the sun (as the heating source from the sun is secondary), and you can build the house very close to each other, and the streets can be gridded for more efficient vehicle traffic flow, concepts like back alleys etc. all come into play when when the houses built don't have to rely on sun orientation. But again, energy costs in NZ are way too high to make these systems affordable. I mean you can say single glazed windows are horrible but really.. what is worse? A highly insulated, sealed air tight house with no mechanical ventilation? or a house with triple glazing but is drafty all over? The 2 building systems are world's apart different. We can't be advising NZ building code to go ie. triple glazing, high R value insulation, WITHOUT ADDRESSING the management of indoor air quality. Everyone that believes they're building a custom home in NZ of higher standard is building nothing different than minimum standard because the single factor that all seem to over look is the installation of mechanical ventilation and / or balanced flow HRVs.

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